In addition to the usual back-to-school jitters, there is a renewed sense of uncertainty and change surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
As we plan to send our country’s youngest citizens back to school safely, the highly transmissible Delta variant has made its unsettling debut. Despite the escalating Delta outbreak, young students are returning to school without the COVID-19 vaccine available to them. Moreover, it leaves many parents frightened. They continue to question when their children will be next in line to receive the crucial shot.
Is The Delta Variant Worse For Kids?
It’s been said that children are not affected as severely as adults by COVID-19 since the outbreak began. More specifically, the risks of serious illness and hospitalization for children are extremely low. But as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads, heightened anxiety follows. Reports indicate that the mutation is spreading much faster among children than the original COVID-19 strand.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children constituted 22.4% of the reported weekly COVID-19 cases for the week ending August 26th. Furthermore, the AAP noted that child cases had “increased exponentially,” reaching levels not seen since the winter surge of 2020-21.
Severe COVID-19 illness remains uncommon among children. However, it may still feel like a dangerous game of Russian roulette for concerned parents.
The vaccine for kids can’t come soon enough as the Delta sweeps across the country. There are a few factors in play regarding vaccine approval for children.
Why Are COVID-19 Vaccines Taking So Long For Kids?
Everyone 12 years of age and older is now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Additionally, the FDA approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people ages 16 and older on Aug. 23. Furthermore, the Biden administration announced that a third booster shot is recommended to protect adults whose last shot was eight or more months ago.
Despite these milestones of protections for the public against the spread of COVID-19, there are few protective measures for children. So, what exactly is the hold-up?
In spite of the urgent need for COVID vaccines, safety remains a major concern, especially when it comes to children. As a precautionary measure, the Food and Drug Administration prompted Pfizer and Moderna to expand their pediatric studies. Expanded research helps detect potential negative side effects. The FDA is looking for serious side effects such as myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis, which is inflammation around the heart lining.
The FDA has requested that both companies include “3,000 children in the five to 11-year-old group.” Although this will take more time, the FDA believes this will significantly raise the bar in knowing how this vaccine may affect our children regarding rarer complications.
Nevertheless, some critics, including the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, disagree. In a statement, the AAP noted that increasing the number of participants only delays approval of the vaccine for children. This could cause them to come in contact with the infectious COVID-19 Delta variant while waiting for approval.
In addition, AAP noted that over 340 million doses administered to adults and adolescents have not caused adverse immunological and inflammatory effects, supporting their argument. Therefore, the lengthier time for safety follow-ups for child COVID-19 vaccines will only delay the approval process.
Despite opposing views, pediatric trials will continue. But, the question still remains as to how long it will take for children to be vaccinated. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer.
When Will Children Get The COVID-19 Vaccine?
It is difficult to estimate how much extra time is needed for these trials. According to Saad Omer, the Yale Institute for Global Health director, “The real limiting factor will be the amount of follow-up that the FDA wants from these new participants.”
The extended research periods for pediatric studies include lengthy follow-up research for participants in the study. This is to monitor long-term adverse effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. In total, the extended study wants to monitor participants for six months after each dose. This means an approval won’t be here until Feb. 2022 at the earliest.
One possibility, however, would be an emergency use approval. This is a similar scenario to what happened with the adult vaccines earlier this year. Of course, there is no guarantee on whether or not there will be an advanced release of the COVID-19 vaccine for children before FDA approval.
In the meantime, parents can help ensure their children’s safety by taking several proactive measures.
Currently, there are three vaccines available to the public. In addition, those who are able to get the vaccine should do so, to slow the spread among children. Additionally, wearing masks and practicing social distancing can also slow the spread of COVID-19. Meanwhile, it’s important to remain vigilant while we await approval for the vaccine for young children.